CHP rescues giant rabbit along Santa Cruz County highway

A California Highway patrol officers helped rescue a very large 26 pound rabbit was found by work crews along Highway 17 in Santa Cruz County on Monday, June 3, 2024. (CHP - Santa Cruz)

Construction crews along Highway 17 in Santa Cruz County were met with a giant surprise early Monday morning when they came across a 26-pound injured rabbit along the side of the road near the Laurel Curve.

Workers called in the California Highway Patrol, which promptly responded. 

An officer managed to safely get a hold of the animal and transport it to the Pacific & Santa Cruz Veterinary Specialists. He named the rabbit "Bugs."

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Animal care workers conducted an initial evaluation of Bugs and transported it to Santa Cruz County Animal Services, where experts determined it was likely a Flemish Giant rabbit, considered the largest breed of rabbit.

The rabbit may have been abandoned or lost by accident by its caretaker or carried from its home by a predator. Shelter General Manager Amber Rowland speculated the rabbit may have been attacked by a feline or bird of prey with sharp talons.

"The nature of animal sheltering work is that we receive animals and know very little about them," Rowland shared, adding, "They can't tell us their story."

Shelter veterinarians found Bugs suffered several injuries, including puncture wounds and patches of hair missing associated with being grabbed from the back of its neck.

There were injuries to an ear and its left eye which appeared to have deep penetrating puncture wounds that led to an infection, according to Rowland.  

She said the animal appeared to be a female, noting it was under a good amount of stress which made it difficult to do a more in-depth evaluation.

"Because of those injuries, the rabbit’s somewhat grumpy temperament, the shelter being very full currently, and the specialty veterinary care that rabbits require, we have transferred the rabbit to a partner organization that specializes in rabbits for full evaluation and follow up care," the shelter director explained.

In addition, while the breed is quite large, in general, the species’ systems are quite delicate, so they don’t do well under anesthesia, another reason Bugs needed to be under special care, Rowland noted. 

The rabbit was moved on Wednesday. 

"If the rabbit’s owner comes forward before the end of the 4-day ‘stray hold’ period, the rabbit may be reclaimed with proof of ownership," Rowland explained. "After that, the placement partner organization will work to find a caring permanent home if it is healthy enough for adoption."

She also noted that anyone looking to find a pet bunny, the shelter, along with most municipal shelters, currently have sociable, healthy, and friendly rabbits waiting for a new home.

The Flemish Giant is strictly a domesticated breed of rabbit.

In size, it tops all other breeds, stretching anywhere from 2.5 to 4 feet long and weighing 15 to 22 pounds.

In contrast, a typical adult rabbit weighs 4 to 5 pounds.

A large rabbit, believed to be a Flemish Giant rabbit was rescued off Highway 17 on Monday, June 3, 2024 and brought to Santa Cruz County Animal Services. (Santa Cruz County Animal Services)